Key West oasis

ASKING: $349,000
SIZE: 2,392 finished sq. ft., 676 unfin.
ADDRESS: 5 Steubin Lane
CURB APPEAL: 7 out of a possible 10
LISTED BY: Charlotte Ramsey of Prudential Charlotte Ramsey, 296-4831

The part of the ad for this house that caught our eye was “Never seen a water garden? Come see this one!” When we stopped to think of it, we never had seen a water garden, so we headed off to Key West where we found not only a 100-foot-long “water fantasy,” but also a tidy cedar house amid 100 azaleas and other flowering plants, all on 2.1 deeply wooded acres.
In this modified split-level designed by the current owner in 1984, six steps lead from the entryway up to the living/dining “great room,” kitchen, three bedrooms, and two baths. Laundry facilities are thoughtfully tucked into a closet along a narrow hallway leading to the bedrooms.
On the lower level, six steps down from the entry, a large family room features a wall of custom oak bookcases and cabinets and a woodstove powerful enough to heat the entire house on all but the coldest winter days. The room could easily be a fourth bedroom; separate unfinished storage space has a roughed-in third full bath.
The house was custom built by Randy Rinehart, who modified the original design slightly to incorporate elements from other houses he was building. One unfortunate decision was to omit one window from planned 30-foot-long wall of windows across the back of the living room. The view there is of a deep, intriguing hardwood forest, which is fine, but the original plan would have created a much more dramatic impact, making the woods almost part of the room.
In addition to the long wall of windows– the bottom third of each of the six is a casement that cranks open for air circulation, but it would be even better if the whole window opened– large windows across the top of the cathedral ceiling straddling the “great room” and kitchen provide maximum morning light. Even on bleak winter days, according to the owner, both rooms are bright thanks to sliding-glass doors in the dining area and to the reflective qualities of white vinyl floor tiles and light birch cabinets in the kitchen.
But the soothing sounds of the water garden drew us out the dining room doors and down a few steps to a “floating deck,” a large outdoor “room” beside the trickling stream. Designed by the owner in consultation with Lorenzo Brown and Richmond architect David Hodnett, the water and rock gardens consist of three ponds extending over an 18-foot drop in grade. That creates the alluring splashings of several waterfalls.
More than a hundred azaleas, rhododendrons, and a huge Japanese maple frame the ponds and rocks; lilies just coming into bloom float on the water above large darting goldfish; and the peaceful native oak, hickory, and maple forest (complemented by 26 introduced hemlocks) combine in a retreat of serenity and beauty.
The owner says that the best thing about living in the house is the kindness and thoughtfulness of his Key West neighbors. But he also mentions the glory of the dead-end street, the underground utilities, the large lot keeping other houses out of sight, and the looming forest that create a uniquely private and tranquil residence only eight minutes from town.

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